Guest Author - Taisha Turner
Shichi Go San or Seven-Five-Three Festival is a very special time for the children of Japan. It is one of three major celebrations in their life. The first celebration is their birth. Shichi Go San matsuri or festival is the second momentous celebration. The third and last is their marriage.
Shichi Go San is on November 15 or on the closest weekend day. It is not a national holiday so no definite date is set. The children go with their parents to a Shinto shrine for purification and blessings from the priest. There are prayers for the children’s health. Also, the priest and parents give prayers for a long life and great prosperity for the children.
The odd numbers, seven, five and three are considered lucky. Each age represents a special development in the children’s life. Japanese children’s heads are no longer shaved at the age of three. Five-year-old boys are allowed to don ‘hakama’ or formal skirt-like trousers. Seven-year-old girls wear an obi now. An obi is the traditional sash females wear around the waist over the kimono. Girls less than seven wear a cord belt. Traditionally, three, five and seven are ages of major change in the children’s life.
Parents fuss over the children all morning. The children wear their best formal clothes for the ceremony. Some children still wear the traditional clothing of the kimono and sandals for the girls and three years old boys. The ‘haori’ jacket and ‘hakama’ pants are for the five-year-old boys. Yet, as time changes more and more are in western dress.
The children and parents exit the Shinto shrine after the prayers. Candy and gifts are for sale in booths outside the shrine. The candy is called chitose-ame or thousand-year candy. The foot long candy represents a long life for the children.
Chitose-ame is carried proudly in a long bag by the children. The candy is available in two colors, red and white. Red and white represent good luck and a great life. The candy’s paper wrappings are decorated with good luck symbols. The symbols are pine, plums, bamboo, crane and tortoise. The most popular are the crane and tortoise.
Parents take photographs to remember the occasion. The children trade the sweet, crunchy candy with guests for gifts when they return home. A party follows the candy exchange.
Visit a Shinto shrine when in Japan on November 15. The children in their colorful kimonos are beautiful. Why not join the proud parents and snap a few photographs to remember the occasion? Don’t forget to say a couple of prayers to bless the little ones.
Geisha Doing Ikebana, Japan
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